A Case Study in Effective Ministry

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian SpiritualityI was in Barnes and Noble tonight, and I the end of the Christian non-fiction rack stood out from across the store because Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz was displayed quite prominently. While I have read Jazz and loved it (even if I didn’t agree with everything he said), I have not read any of his other work, so I was interested in his other recent books, which were displayed not quite as prominently on the end of that particular rack. In the interest of checking out some reviews before buying one, I thought I would take a quick look on Amazon. One of the reviews, presumably written by a non-Christian person, was as follows:

I picked this book up on a whim while visiting Powells Books in Portland, OR. It was just sitting there on the shelf, and pretty much summed up what I was thinking to myself at the time: I know I’m looking for something, but God knows what that might be. I picked it up, put it back down, continued browsing, and then saw it again on my way out the door, and decided to buy it.
I don’t know why it never dawned on me that it was a Christian book written by a Christian writer (It’s not like the word GOD is in the title), which may have been a blessing, since in general I feel that most of that genre is stuffed with preachy type self help books trying to save you, or get you to come to Church. Once I started reading it and figured out that it WAS a Christian book, I had to pause and convince myself to keep reading, though I felt sure I would run into some of that convert or go to hell rhetoric, so popular among hard core Christians. To my amazement and delight there wasn’t any of that in this book at all.
It is, quite simply, a young man ( I assume, there is no picture), well versed in scripture, and theology, talking about why the human race is where it is, and why we are never satisfied with what we have. Not only that, but he never makes you feel guilty about anything. He stresses the relational nature of the stories in the Bible, as opposed to the formulaic nature of the people who generally interpret the Bible for their own means.
The main point that Mr. Miller tries to pound into your head, is that people have become estranged from God (the fall in the garden) and that they no longer have the awesome glory of God within themselves. When we lost this link to God, we needed something outside of ourselves to show us that we have value, friends, loved ones, etc. We were no longer sure that we were worthy of love, and no longer sure of our own self worth since God was no longer there to tell us that we were loved. It is Mr Miller’s belief that all the tragedies of human history, from cliques in high school to WWII all stem from this separation that now exists between humanity and God.
Mr. Miller also talks in detail about Jesus, and his role in the salvation of mankind. He again focuses on the relationship with Jesus as the important part of the message, and not any rules or guidelines setup by some organization somewhere. He even takes right wing conservatives, and holier than thou Christian ministers to task on the Gay marriage issue, reminding them that homosexuals would probably have been among Jesus’ closest friends, along with the prostitutes, tax collectors and other characters that Jesus generally associated with, and that Jesus’ message about loving one another extends to all people, sinners and saved, alike, and not just to those people who agree with your agenda.
All in all, this was an excellent book on Christian faith, which I enjoyed reading tremendously.

Is there any doubt about what type of books Christians should be encouraging their friends to read after a review like this? While there is certainly some truth in the “inspirational” books that effectively condemn unchurched people, I’m quite certain that those books would never reach this particular type of person. This book wasn’t even receiving the glowing reviews that, on average, Jazz received, yet it’s still apparently having quite an impact. I think Miller is on to something.

My apologies for the massive block of text…for some reason WordPress isn’t recognizing my line breaks.


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